Christian Lacroix streamlines interiors for TGV carriages

France’s rail operator the SNCF is set to introduce its first new-look TGV carriages next month, with restyled interiors designed by Christian Lacroix.

The massive €350m (£236m) refurbishment will involve 183 trains – almost half the TGV rolling stock – which will be progressively brought into service over the next five years. It is the first time that the state railway company has called on a fashion designer.

Lacroix won a joint pitch for the project, in association with Paris-based industrial design group MBD Design, a specialist in trains and tramways, and Compin, manufacturer of seats for public transport since 1902.

From a Europe-wide competition launched in January 2002, the Lacroix team saw off shortlisted pitches from two other consortia/ Avant-Première Design, Antonin and Kenzo; and Brand Company and Recardo. The final appointment followed a public consultation in which full-scale mock-up carriages by each of the three finalists toured around France, between November 2002 and March 2003.

The new TGVs will be introduced on the Atlantic coast route serving Paris-Bordeaux, where the ‘second-generation’ Atlantique trains have not had a substantial redesign since their introduction in 1986. From June 2007, renovated ‘third-generation’ Réseau trains will serve the new TGV Est between Paris and Strasbourg – the fastest passenger trains in Europe, at up to 200 mph.

Curved ergonomic seats — the largest single investment at €51m (£34m) — float from a new support system, and the train layout has been entirely rethought. Bars are more evenly distributed along the train, luggage racks are placed within compartments and there are new dedicated family areas, office zones, bike storage, wheelchair spaces with call bell to the controller, and drink- and snack-dispenser areas.

A radical purple colour scheme, punctuated by shades of scarlet in second class – to evoke ‘family and leisure’ – and by a more business-like dominant grey with flashes of apple green in first class, completes the makeover.

Lacroix has diversified beyond his role as artistic director of fashion houses Christian Lacroix and Pucci of late. Recent projects include the centenary edition of the Le Petit Larousse encyclopaedia, the Hôtel du Petit-Moulin in Paris, uniforms for Air France, opera costumes for La Monnaie in Brussels, and the interior decoration of the Gaumont multiplex cinema in Amiens, inaugurated on 20 September.

TGV Redesign in figures

• Total budget €350m (£236m)

• 9 football pitches of carpet

• 158 miles of fluorescent lighting

• 11 000 reading lamps

• 70 000 new seats

• 167 000m2 chair upholstery fabric

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